African tourism has only seen the tip of the iceberg - expert

African tourism has only seen the tip of the iceberg, with great international potential and an expanding market closer to home, a global hospitality consultant has said. 

Tim Smith, managing partner at independent global hospitality consultancy HVS, says this largely untapped potential in African hospitality  - coupled with the growing local market - promises to make the African hotel industry even more competitive going forward. 

Smith was commenting on the fifth African Hotel Valuation Index, released at the Tourism, Hotel Investment and Networking Conference (THINC) Africa 2018 in Cape Town on Wednesday. 

It surveyed more than 75 000 existing and 11 500 proposed rooms in the upper mid-market and higher hotel sector on the continent. 

Leisure destinations in countries such as Kenya, Morocco and Ethiopia and the Indian Ocean Islands have shown significant growth during the course of 2017, with even more development expected in the coming years.

Hotel values

According to Smith, the African hotel market is evolving rapidly, growing on the back of foreign investment, political stability in an increasing number of countries, and economic growth. 

"The ability to better cater to local guests is becoming increasingly important for hotel brands and independent operators across the African continent, with menus, language and culture all being key to welcoming more African guests.

"It is in fact an anomaly that hoteliers are still teaching their staff Mandarin, yet have not maximised markets closer to home," said Smith.

Smith said even smaller cities were showing high growth potential.

"Many cities with fewer than 1 000 organised or branded rooms are also expected to attract increased interest from investors over the next three years, with key factors like urbanisation and improving infrastructure playing a significant role in the development of these market players," he argued.

"An increase in regional tourism – both business and leisure – improving air connectivity across the continent, evolution in politics, increased room night demand and domestic consumption are all positive steps in the right direction for the fast-developing continent."

Smith noted that the fall in values for some of the markets in 2017 have been due to temporary setbacks in the political-economic situation, or a short-term oversupply.

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